Source (formerly known as Zero Mass Water) provides safe, clean drinking water for industrial, commercial, residential and community applications using their proprietary technology. Their technology uses hydropanels powered by solar energy to extract an endless supply of renewable drinking water. Source is one of several companies that offer solutions to the problem of water scarcity.
Challenges: drinking water
Safe and readily available water is essential for public health, regardless of whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes. Improved water supply and sanitation, as well as better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and significantly reduce poverty in developing nations.
WHO (World Health Organization) reports that over 2 billion people live in water-stressed countries, a situation that is predicted to worsen in some regions due to climate change and population growth. At least 2 billion people use feces-contaminated drinking water. As a result, microbial contamination of drinking-water poses the greatest threat to drinking-water safety. The most important chemical risks in drinking water arise from arsenic, fluoride or nitrate. Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and microplastics are emerging contaminants and cause public concern.
Source developed hydropanels for producing potable water from ambient moisture and sunlight. Condensing potable water from atmospheric moisture is nothing new. In contrast, Source’s water generators are completely solar-powered, allowing them to function independently of infrastructure. The system is depicted in the following diagram.
The system structure
The system consists of the following parts:
- A housing featuring a transparent top panel and reflecting back panel to specify an interior volume;
- Inlets for the introduction of ambient air to the interior volume;
- Hygroscopic material retained within the interior volume to capture water vapor from ambient moisture during water vapor capture time and to absorb thermal energy from the sun during the water vapor release period;
- A pumping device to create a condition of lower pressure within the interior volume during the water vapor release time;
- A condenser to condense water vapor from the carrier gas into liquid water during the water vapor release time;
- A controller to regulate the generation of liquid water from the condenser by adjusting the condition of lowered-pressure;
- Solar panel to provide power for electronics; and
- A battery to store electricity generated by solar panels.
How does the system work?
Water vapor capture
At night, the interior volume is blown with ambient moisture. The hygroscopic material within the interior volume absorbs water vapor. The blower is powered by a battery that is charged during the day by solar panels integrated with the hydropanel.
Water vapor release
During the day, solar cell panels integrated with the hydropanel convert solar energy into electricity that powers controllers and sensors and charges the system’s inbuilt batteries. Consequently, the system can operate independently of the grid.
The hygroscopic material absorbs solar thermal energy. The temperature increases inside the interior volume.
The controller activates the pump to evacuate interior volume to a lower pressure than the atmospheric water pressure to which the hygroscopic material was exposed overnight.
While interior volume is under a negative pressure (e.g. compared to atmospheric pressure), a carrier gas is introduced into interior volume from the atmosphere. The mixing of hygroscopic material-respired water vapor and carrier gas increases the overall pressure within interior volume and the condenser unit. Once the mixture is pumped to a condenser unit, the elevated total pressure causes the water vapor to undergo a phase change into liquid water.
The generated liquid water is treated and mineralized with calcium and magnesium to achieve the optimal quality of drinking water. The water is then routed through a polishing filter that monitors mineralization and adjusts pH levels and measures level of mineralization before being distributed to the user.
To generate liquid water at high efficiency, the controller adjusts the pump rate and/or the flow rate of carrier gas into interior volume to drive efficient water vapor release and capture from the hygroscopic material based on a solar flux, an ambient relative humidity, an ambient temperature, an ambient pressure, a time of day, a weather forecast, a pressure in the interior volume, a temperature within the interior volume, a water vapor partial pressure within the interior volume, a water vapor partial pressure output from the interior volume, a relative humidity of the carrier gas, etc.
Source releases the SOURCE Hydropanels product as shown in the picture below.
A two-panel array generates around 7.5 liters of water per day. The water quality is satisfactory. The feedback about the quality of the water can be found in this video:
However, the cost of the SOURCE Hydropanels is a concern. According to a blog in GWI (Global Water Intelligence), a two-panel array costs around $6,000. These hydropanels have a lifespan of 15 years. The cost, water production efficiency, and lifespan of SOURCE hydropanels give a water price of $150/m3, which is 124 times the global average cost of tap water. The technology has been criticized for being such a bad idea in this video:
Therefore, the Source’s solution works best at scale if there are no viable alternatives and someone is able and willing to fund it. Source has raised a total of $364.4M and has deployed SOURCE Hydropanels for people in some of the most arid deserts in the world, including Saudi Arabia.
Source has raised a total of $364.4M in funding over 9 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Jul 19, 2022 from a Series D round.
Source is funded by 14 investors, including The Lightsmith Group, Fifth Wall, Material Impact Fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Duke Energy Corporation, Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, WIND Ventures, BlackRock, Harvard Management Company, Monashee Capital Corp., The Drawdown Fund, 3×5 Partners, R/GA Ventures, and Echelon. The Lightsmith Group and Fifth Wall are the most recent investors.
Cody Friesen is Founder.
Cody Friesen is CEO.